This is a fan fiction story based on characters from the Lonesome Dove television show, which belongs to Rysher Entertainment and Hallmark. No infringement on copyrights is intended.


Stronger Than Moonshine
(21st in the Romancing the Plains series)
by Craig Caff

Someday we'll look back on this
and it will all seem funny.

("Rosalita" - Bruce Springsteen)

(Friday night, December 30th, 1881)

Look at him. That pompous son of a bitch. Grinning like a jackass eating its own dung. Ike suddenly twisted his head from shoulder to shoulder, expecting the hotel's dining customers to drop their eating utensils and stare aghast at him for his secret thoughts about Clay Mosby. But they didn't. Satisfied that he was safe from the bearded dandy's wrath, he crossed the room and paused at the table where Mosby was dining with Miz Ashley Jessup.

"What is it, Ike?" Clay asked. He was aware of Ike's eyes staring at Miz Jessup's shapely bosom. "Ike?!"

"Uh, sorry, Mr. Mosby. I forgot to deliver these telegrams that arrived today." Ike held two crumpled pieces of white paper in his oily hand.

Clay Mosby snatched the messages and returned an impatient glare at Ike. "Is there anything else?"

"Uh, no," Ike replied, still feasting his eyes over the attractive features of Ashley Jessup.

Miz Jessup smiled politely at Ike as she awaited Clay's dismissal of the town lackey.

"Good night, Ike," Clay said as he tapped his fingers on the table. He then looked across the table to Ashley. "With your permission, Miz Ashley?"

"Yes, Clay. Do read the telegrams. I trust one of them is from cousin Olivia." She looked down at her soft, delicate hands, as if examining them, then looked up at Clay, smiling. "That is, I certainly hope one is from dearest Olivia."

"As do I," Clay replied as he scanned the first message. He smiled and nodded to the honey blonde with the sapphire blue eyes. "It seems your cousin, Olivia, will be arriving within the next few days."

Ashley's eyes lit up brightly. "Won't you be the strutting cock of the barnyard when she arrives, dearest Clay?"

"I beg your pardon?" Clay replied, not sure he heard what he thought he heard.

"Why, I declare, Clay," Ashley said, "with two little ol' hens like Olivia and myself, you will be one proud rooster with each of us on either side of you." She smiled and then laughed quietly.

Clay Mosby found himself drawn to Ashley's laugh and enjoyed hearing it each time she felt happy enough to share it. He was still adjusting to this attractive and happier woman. She seemed a lifetime removed from her bout with the melancholies when he had met her in New Orleans.

"And what does the other message say? If I may be so brash?" Ashley said.

Clay unfolded the second telegram and read it. Ashley's dark blue eyes widened as she noticed Clay's brown eyes widen. "Well obviously, it appears that this message was unforeseen," she commented, taking great pleasure in reading his face.

Clay looked up from the telegram. "Yes. Quite unforeseen. It would appear that the Governor of the Territory of Montana is making a stop here in Curtis Wells. Concerning the possibility of the railroad coming through Curtis Wells."

**********************************

Almost directly above Clay Mosby and Miz Ashley Jessup were another feasting couple. Only it wasn't food. It was the feasting of lustful passion. A naked Mattie Shaw was uttering guttural moans of unbridled ecstasy as Robert Shelby drove the entire length of his pride and joy deep inside her most private area. Pounding away with a relentless energy as both man and woman grew more engrossed in their lovemaking. Mattie screamed as she sunk her teeth into Robert's shoulder and dug her fingernails into his strong back as he poured his affection deep inside her.

Both Robert and Mattie lay breathing at an accelerated rate as they felt the heat of their sweating bodies on the disheveled bed in Robert's room. Mattie stared at Robert through full, glazed eyes as she gasped for that precious air to fill her lungs. In her mind, she flashed how it could always be this way. She allowed her thoughts to tread into dangerous waters as she envisioned spending a lifetime with the gentle and kindhearted Robert Shelby. Mattie groaned with disappointment as she felt Robert soften inside her and her thoughts, like wind, swept ahead to where there were four, five, six small children running underfoot of each of them.

Aware that her Robert was beginning to nod off, Mattie tightened her legs around his back and began thrusting her strong hips back and forth, feeling Robert stir inside her garden.

"Do you have enough for one more time, Robert?" Mattie moaned.

Robert Shelby began thrusting back, ready to comply with Mattie's desire.

************************************************

Next morning it had stopped raining. The past few days had seen warmer weather in Montana. Snow had turned to rain, causing a sloppy mess of snow and mud in the streets of Curtis Wells. It was the last day of the year. The last day of 1881.

Josiah Peale, as well as his new assistant, Hubie Kellner, combed the streets and wood dwellings for stories to be posted in the Montana Statesman. It was good having a newspaper in Curtis Wells once again and Clay Mosby especially approved, realizing a town seeking the railroad must have communication with the outside world.

Articles about the recent weddings as well as the stage accident highlighted the final edition of the year.

******************************************

It was unexpected. Money and newlyweds usually were. The planned journey to St. Joseph, Missouri, coming in April, coupled with Gretchen's temper and knack for breaking things, would require Call to temporarily separate himself from his wife and take up some unattractive and unwanted work in order to provide for their needs.

"Call, I don't want you to go. A storm is coming. Can't you wait till it passes before going?" Gretchen pleaded as she stood next to her husband in front of their house.

"I can hardly tell the stage line when to set about their schedule, Gretchen," Call replied as he looked up from cutting the dead bushes Gretchen wanted taken out. "It don't make me feel good us being apart. You know I'd favor staying here with you."

"I know, Call," Gretchen quietly said. "Four days apart is going to seem like forever." She tightened her quivering lip, hoping he wouldn't notice her eyes welling up with tears. She couldn't understand it. Things that normally didn't bother her were upsetting her lately. And not having Call with her for four days especially bothered her. It bothered Call as well. But they would require more funds than they had in order to secure seats on both the stage and railroad. The trip to Missouri and back would not be cheap.

"Don't fret none, Little Coyote," Mason Dobbs said as he stepped out of the barn. He was eating an apple. "I expect to take good care of Newt for you."

Gretchen smiled half-heartedly. "Thank you, Mason." She appreciated Mason's concern but it did little to ease the anguish she felt inside.

"I'm bound for town," Mason said as he mounted his gray. "Newt? You meet up with me tomorrow morning. We'll ride out together."

Call nodded to his uncle.

"You're welcome to spend the night," Gretchen offered.

Mason smiled as he looked at the two of them. "Not this time, Mrs. Call. Next time." He winked and rode off.

Even though she welcomed having him stay over, Gretchen was glad when Mason left. She liked having Call to herself.

********

Newt Call had a restless spirit. Always did. He had grown accustomed to resting his Winchester between his shoulder and neck as he paced in front of the house most evenings. It was similar to what he had experienced with his father, the Captain, a few years ago down in Lonesome Dove, Texas.

Satisfied that it appeared to be relatively safe to retire for the night, Call walked back inside the house. Gretchen looked up from brushing her hair and smiled warmly at her husband. She had finished mending her skirt and was anxious to go to bed with him.

****

Both Call and Gretchen were restless. Call gently placed his hand on his wife's cheek and wiped her tears as she sniffled.

"It'll only be for four days then I'll be home," Call quietly said.

"I just miss you so much, Call," Gretchen replied. "I . . . I want to read you something." She rolled over to sit up and light the lamp but Call sat up quickly and grabbed her waist. Gretchen giggled as Call pulled her close and gently nuzzled his face into her cleavage as he began kissing her breasts through her red, white, and black, checkered flannel nightgown. Gretchen moaned softly, forgetting the book she wanted as she locked her mouth on Call's mouth and allowed him to fall on top of her where they both grew excited and quickly removed their night clothing.

****

Gretchen laid back against Call's chest. They always felt especially close to each other after their lovemaking. Call wrapped his arms affectionately around Gretchen, nuzzling his lips on top of her head, showering her with kisses as he inhaled the fragrant smell of her long, soft hair. Gretchen took hold of Call's hand and brought it to her lips and tenderly kissed it.

"I love you forever, Newt Call," she whispered. "Do you know that I knew you cared before I think you did?" She giggled slightly.

"I didn't know that," Call mumbled contently. "When?"

"Remember when Dorian Mowry came to force me to return to Missouri? I couldn't find you and I felt hopeless, like there was nothing to live for. I would never see you again. I didn't want to live. I really didn't." Gretchen paused as she took a breath, reliving the experience from last summer. "And then you were there. At our secret place behind the town. You were there. You took me in your arms and said you weren't going to let anyone take me away and then you kissed me for the first time."

"I reckon it was the turning point for us," Call said as he squeezed Gretchen close to him, as he remembered realizing that day how much she meant to him.

"Please come back to me as soon as you can, Call? Please, Sweetheart?"

"I will," he whispered. "Nothing's gonna keep me away from you, Coyote Girl."

************************************************

(Monday, January 2, 1882)

Call had ridden away early yesterday with his Uncle Mason Dobbs. Hired by the Black Hills Stage Line to be side-riders while Luther Root healed from his broken leg. Road agents could appear at any moment, around any turn, day or night. Call had reluctantly left Gretchen with her older sister, Victoria, and rode off in the rain.

The Brandt Sisters closed the dry goods early on this rainy day and crossed the muddy street to enjoy hot coffee in the Dove. Now that Victoria and Gretchen were married, the sisters rarely had occasion to sit and chat about frivolous things, as they had so diligently done before journeying the nine hundred miles west from Missouri, to the far-western frontier town of Curtis Wells.

The topic had turned to babies. Babies and children. Small children. The sisters sat together at one of the tables in the dining room as they savored the hot coffee Amanda served them.

"Ephraim told me that both of you are exhibiting symptoms of being pregnant," youngest sister, Paige, said with an excited tone. "He did say that it would benefit me more if I were to show some patience and just let nature take its course."

Victoria and Gretchen giggled as they turned their heads and looked at each other.

"I want you to have the first baby, Victoria," Gretchen said. "You are the oldest and I think you should have that honor. I really do."

"It will be wonderful when it happens," Victoria quietly replied as she sipped her steaming coffee. An image flashed in her mind and for a moment she was lost in the past. Taken back eighteen years earlier. As an eight year old girl she spent much of her time watching over four year old Gretchen and two year old Paige.

The memory was still vivid and fresh. Their mother, Rebecca Brandt, had been entertaining some neighboring ladies. Drinking lemonade on an unusually dry late December afternoon. The lingering smell of fresh-baked gingerbread cookies filled the house. A large tray of cookies had been carried outside where the ladies sat discussing their households along with town gossip.

Victoria, striving to be like the grown ups, sat next to her mother and quietly listened to the did you know's and the have you heard's, while keeping a protective eye on her playful, carefree younger sisters.

Gretchen had come over and tugged at her mother's wide skirt, asking for a gingerbread cookie. Rebecca Brandt handed the four year old child a cookie and little Gretchen ran off and ate it behind the back side of the oak tree that stood in the middle of the large front yard. A few minutes later the four year old returned and asked for a cookie for two year old Boo, as they affectionately called little Paige.

Once the cookie was in Gretchen's small hands, she hid behind her mother's chair and ate it. Paige scampered across the yard that was surrounded by a white picket fence and asked her mother for a cookie. When the women realized the four year old had eaten both cookies, they commented that Gretchen was a little thief and a little minx.

"Victoria? You didn't hear one single word I just said," Paige cried as she slightly stuck out her lower lip in a pouting position.

"I'm sorry, Boo," Victoria replied. The eighteen year old memory dissolved, like the trail of steam from her coffee, rising up and vanishing, bringing her back to the present. "What did you say?" She suddenly turned to Gretchen. "Wait, Paige. Please? Gretchen? Why not hold off your trip back home until summer?"

Gretchen shook her head adamantly. "You know that I want to be there on April 3rd, Victoria. It's Pony Express Day."

Victoria shrugged. When Gretchen had her mind set on something there was nothing anyone could say or do to alter it. She was headstrong that way. Like the day the Brandt Sisters arrived in Curtis Wells. Gretchen had boldly stated when she first saw him that she wanted the uncivilized looking Newt Call as her husband. Six months later Call was placing a ring on her finger as they became husband and wife.

"You've had quite an affect on Newt," Victoria commented.

"We love each other very, very much," Gretchen happily replied, as she glanced lovingly at her gold band with the interlocking hearts on her finger.

"That is obvious," Paige giggled. "On the whole, Call has been behaving very well."

Victoria waved her fingers in front of Paige. "I'm sorry, Paige. What were you saying before I interrupted you?"

Paige smiled. "I can hardly wait until you and Gretchen give birth."

Victoria lowered her eyes to the table and put her hand over her mouth and giggled slightly. She looked up at her younger sisters. "Would you two like to know something?"

Both Paige and Gretchen were suddenly attentive. "Victoria?!" Paige said.

"I'm pregnant," she replied with a warm and content smile. "Ephraim confirmed it this morning."

The two younger sisters jumped up and rushed to hug their older sister as they excitedly congratulated her. Paige stumbled over her words she was so happy and Gretchen began crying.

Victoria took hold of Gretchen's hands. "I hope those are tears of joy?"

"They are," Gretchen replied. "I'm just . . . I've been . . . I'm so emotional lately. And . . . and Call is out there getting soaked in this rain just to take me to Missouri. I miss him so much. All I do is . . . I just . . . just think about him every moment."

"But he loves you, Gretchen," Victoria quietly commented. "And your turn is coming soon. I believe there will be two new Brandt babies this time next year."

"My sister, Victoria, is having a baby!" Paige proclaimed to everyone in the dining room. Her face beamed and her eyes were bright with joy.

********************************************

"Have you heard, Austin?" Amanda asked. "The Governor of the Territory is on his way here to discuss the railroad with Clay."

"Yes," Austin grumpily replied. He hated the rain. He hated winter. Even the hot coffee Amanda was pouring would do little to warm him.

"Well?" Amanda said. "Don't you have anything to say about that?"

"No. I'm cold. I'm wet. And Twyla won't let me in her damn whorehouse ever since Rosa was beaten up," Austin irritably said.

"Well that was your own fault, Austin," Amanda commented. "Look. You and I have an opportunity to make something big happen if the railroad comes through Curtis Wells. More people. More money. We both stand to benefit."

Austin drank his coffee fast. A lack of sexual release had put him in a foul mood. He dropped a coin on the table and grumbling incoherently, he walked out of the Dove.

********************************************

"In case you were wondering," Mason Dobbs offered, "I prefer snow to this blasted rain. It tends to soak a man to the bone." He looked toward the way station while a fresh team of horses were being harnessed, then turned back to his nephew.

Call sat motionless atop the Hellbitch. Rain rolling off the brim of his hat. Rain sliding down his neck. It didn't much matter now. Puddles of water inside his boots. Clothes sticking to flesh from the heaviness of the water. It eventually got to the point where a man would become so wet from the continuous drenching of rain that it didn't matter. Even with a slicker on. It felt like taking a bath with clothes on.

Call shook his head so he could see better. Usually when he rode with his uncle he was at ease. Now, however, his spirit was troubled. Dr. Cleese had told him point blank to prepare himself as it was likely Gretchen would bear him a son or daughter within the next year. The reality was, he had a wife that he passionately loved. Children were a natural part of marriage. He just wasn't sure if he could be a decent father. There wasn't a whole lot to draw from. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small photograph of Gretchen and stared at it for a moment then returned it quickly to his pocket.

He looked over at his uncle. Mason seemed to always have something to say about every subject known to man. There were occasions when Call would have preferred silence but he was still glad his uncle was alongside him. He trusted him. Trusted him all the way.

"Pulling out!" the stage driver yelled. He snapped the whip and began singing, "There's no respect for youth or age, aboard the California stage. A pull and haul about four seats, as bed bugs do among the sheets. The ladies are compelled to sit, with dresses in tobacco spit. The gentlemen don't seem to care, but talk on politics and swear."

Mason sat alongside Call. He shook his head. Call frowned, not sure what his uncle was thinking. Mason turned to Call. "I'll wager that driver never reaches the fame of Richard Wagner."

Call squinted his eyes. "Never heard tell of no fella that goes by that name."

Mason laughed. "He's an old gent from across the sea. Germany. He wrote the opera, Tristan and Isolde."

Call stared at his uncle with concern. "You feeling all right, Mason?"

"I'd venture to say that you didn't know this opera I'm telling you about summed up the ethos and pathos of the whole romantic era?" Mason replied as he winked at Call.

"That settles it," Call said. "Soon as we get back I'm dragging you to see Cleese. You ain't well, Mason. I ain't even sure what tongue you're speaking in."

"Hell, Newt," Mason laughed. "I got me some culture. I learned it from a little German gal down in Pecos. Her family were immigrants. I guess you might say me and her both taught each other something that the other never knew."

"This ain't the time," Call grumbled. "We best ride 'fore that driver starts bellyaching again. Besides, I wanna get back home. Gretchen's been crying alot. I don't favor being away from her."

Call and Mason tucked their chins slightly and split up so each one rode on either side of the stage.

**********************************************

(Tuesday morning, January 3, 1882)

"Will you please stop making such a fuss over me," Victoria pleaded. "I may be pregnant, but it is still a long ways off. I am fine."

Paige and Gretchen giggled as Ephraim stood there trying to coddle his wife. "Have you thought of names for the baby?" Paige excitedly asked.

"Oh my, no," Ephraim replied as he hurried to pull his coat on. "We have time." He looked at Victoria. "Perhaps we should begin contemplating what names we prefer?"

Victoria smiled. "Of course we will, Ephraim. But first, you have an office to open and we have a store to open." She turned to look at Gretchen. Call was due back today. It showed. Gretchen had been sad and quiet the past few days and now she was giggling and happy.

"It looks as if you have some news to share with your husband, Gretchen," Victoria mentioned.

Gretchen smiled. "Yes. And I can't wait to tell him."

"Ladies? If you are ready," Ephraim said, "I shall go bring the wagon around to pick you up. I think we should all be quite relieved that it has stopped raining."

**************************************

Clay Mosby, along with Robert Shelby, Miz Ashley Jessup, Josiah Peale, and Sheriff Austin Peale, stood in front of the banking house as old Amos brought the stage to a halt. They all were forced to retreat a few steps to avoid the mud being kicked up from the horses. Clay immediately descended the wooden steps to take hold of the stage door and open it in anticipation of the Governor's arrival, as well as Miz Olivia Jessup.

"Governor Potts, I presume?" Clay said as he extended his hand to the balding, portly gentleman stepping out of the coach. "I'm Clay Mosby. I received your telegram."

"Actually, Sir, I am not the Governor. I'm his right-hand man, however. Assistant to the Governor." He extended his fat, pudgy hand to Mosby. "Mr. Loren Alcott. The Governor has come down with a frightful ailment and the doctor will not allow him to travel until he is well."

Clay took hold of the man's greasy hand as he stepped clumsily into the muddy street. The Governor's assistant turned, slightly wheezing, and extended his hand toward the stage. An attractive, full bosomed, black haired beauty stepped out of the stage. "My wife, Mr. Mosby. The Lady Tatum Newcastle. From England."

Mrs. Alcott politely nodded to Clay as her face knotted up at the sight of the muddy street.

Clay leaned in to look inside the coach, only to discover it was empty. Olivia Jessup hadn't arrived. He was as much concerned about Olivia's welfare as he was excited about the meeting with the Governor's man. He turned back to Loren Alcott. "Well, shall we get you and your wife situated in the hotel and properly cleaned before we proceed with our business?"

The Governor's assistant agreed as Clay and Robert gathered their luggage and walked them across the street to the Lonesome Dove Hotel.

Clay finished at the hotel and hurried over to the telegraph office to send a wire regarding Olivia and why she hadn't arrived.

*******************************

Clay Mosby returned to his saloon, slightly depressed. He expected Governor Benjamin F. Potts to personally arrive in Curtis Wells to discuss the railroad. He poured himself a drink as Robert Shelby stood near him.

"Clay? I have heard of Loren Alcott. You have a better opportunity to secure your railroad with a man like Alcott instead of Governor Potts."

Clay looked at his longtime friend. "And why is that, Robert?"

"In case you weren't aware of it," Robert commented, "Governor Potts fought against the Confederacy in the Shenandoah Valley. He was a captain . . . as I recall . . . with the 42d Ohio regiment."

Clay's eyebrows raised slightly.

Robert Shelby nodded. "He also fought in the Vicksburg campaign and, get this, Clay! He served under General Sherman." Robert swallowed a large shot of whiskey. "Hardly the kind of man I would expect any favors from."

Clay took in all this information. "How do you do it, Robert?"

"I have made a point to gather as much useful information as I can, Clay. We must always attempt to outflank our enemies. Now, concerning Mr. Loren Alcott, as I hear it, he is sympathetic to Southerners. Perhaps the right man showed up after all?"

"Then, we shall drink to Mr. Loren Alcott, assistant to the Yankee Governor," Clay said with a look of renewed hope as he lifted his glass into the dimly lit, smoky air.

**********************************

The next morning, over in tent town, men were hurrahing the arrival of a man in a buckboard. He was known only by the name of Swifty. A name he had been given by town folks because of how swift he moved in and out of town. Swifty was a moonshiner. He produced the highest quality of corn liquor. Every year in early January he would show up in Curtis Wells with a wagon load of moonshine. It was stronger and more powerful than any whiskey sold at the No.10 or even the Ambrosia.

Swifty sold most of his moonshine to the No.10 Saloon then began offering free drinks to anyone interested. There was never a lack of interested participants when free moonshine was offered. Swifty pocketed enough money to keep him happy for another year and was gone before any upstanding member of the community tried to turn the law on him. Men began drinking at an accelerated rate.

**********************************

Dr. Ephraim Cleese was smiling as he walked down the stairs at the back of his building. Victoria and Gretchen were with him.

"Now both of you stop worrying about things," Ephraim said as he tugged at his vest. "Call should be back some time today, Gretchen." He looked at his pregnant wife, Victoria, and smiled. Then back at Gretchen. "You have some exciting news for your husband, don't you?"

Gretchen looked at her older sister and nodded. "Yes. Yes, I do."

**********************************

The idea of either the Union Pacific or Central Pacific passing through Curtis Wells appealed to a fair amount of citizens. Clay Mosby had invited his mayor, Josiah Peale, as well as his sheriff, Austin Peale, to join Robert and him for lunch with Mr. Loren Alcott and his wife, the Lady Tatum Newcastle. Two tables were set together so that the six would sit three per side.

"We aspire to be grand and perhaps one day house the Government seat when Montana eventually is awarded statehood," Clay Mosby said to Mr. Alcott. Being the diplomat he was, he made sure to include Mrs. Alcott in the conversation. "I understand you come from England. Your country is well known for its organizational prowess in politics, Mrs. Alcott."

"Please, Mr. Mosby," she began, "I prefer the title, Lady Newcastle. It helps me to keep my sanity in this unconventional wilderness you Westerners call the Frontier. I must admit that I do miss dining at the palace with Queen Victoria. She is the daughter of Edward. The Duke of Kent. We got along quite well, actually." Lady Tatum Newcastle sat in between her husband and Sheriff Peale.

Unbeknown to all except her husband, she had been expelled from her native Great Britain for her promiscuous behavior which supposedly threatened civic order. The old families of England had been outraged by her lack of morals and shipped her to America where an aunt of hers resided.

Now, as the party of six were having soup, Lady Newcastle slid her left hand under the table, up her husband's fat thigh until she reached his crotch. Aware of his wife's plan, Mr. Alcott discreetly reached under the table and seized her hand. Lady Tatum shot her husband an icy stare which resulted in his instantly removing his hand as he resigned himself to the inevitable.

"Well then, Lady Newcastle," Clay replied, "it is my estimation that we shall exceed all other frontier towns once we have secured the railroad. It will most assuredly bring progress."

Lady Newcastle smiled as she began fondling her husband under the table, knowing he had no willpower. As she brought him closer to the point of no return, her right hand began sliding up the powerful thigh of Austin Peale. Lady Newcastle continued carrying on a perfectly normal conversation with Clay Mosby and Josiah Peale as her husband ejaculated inside his pants. His heavy breathing and grunts did not go unnoticed.

"Forgive me," Mr. Loren Alcott pleaded. "This soup is rather spicy," he fumbled. He shot an angry glare at his wife then looked at Clay. "Tell me more about your vision, Mr. Mosby."

Raising her left hand, which was slightly sticky and wet from her husband's seed seeping through his trousers, Lady Newcastle touched her forehead. "I seem to have a headache. I think I'll excuse . . ."

Loren Alcott quickly grabbed his glass of champagne and allowed himself to drop it, so it would fall into his lap. "Oh my!" he exclaimed. He turned to his promiscuous wife. "Perhaps you can go back to our room without me, dear?"

Lady Newcastle knew her unattractive husband had purposely spilled his drink to cover up what she caused. She turned to Austin, while still fondling him under the table. "Will you accompany me to my room, Sheriff Peale? I shudder to think of collapsing on the stairs."

Austin nodded and was thankful he wore his duster to lunch. He assisted Lady Newcastle up the stairs as Mr. Alcott attempted to return to the issues at hand. So adept at her amorous skills was Lady Tatum, that no one besides her husband was aware of what had just transpired.

As Austin and Mrs. Alcott reached the room at the far end of the hall, she looked at Austin. "Come inside," she ordered. "I do not relish the possibility of an intruder waiting inside."

Austin took her key and unlocked the door. He opened it and stepped inside the room as Lady Newcastle closed the door behind them. She walked to the bed and bent over, raising her plum colored skirts and petticoat to her waist. To Austin's surprise, she wore no drawers.

"Come on," she urged, "what do you think I brought you up here for?" She wiggled her full, rounded behind to entice him. "Get over here right this instant and finish what I started. Hurry! Before my stupid husband decides to come check on me."

Austin was already fully erect and quickly exposed himself then stepped behind the attractive, black haired woman and plunged all the way into his task. Lady Newcastle pressed her face into the bed and grunted.

*******************************

While meetings were taking place downstairs, as well as upstairs in the Dove, Call and Mason finally pulled into town with the stagecoach, having completed their task. As they were still seated atop their horses, both Luther Root and Enona Horn came out of the Ambrosia Club to thank them.

Gretchen Call ran out of the dry goods with her younger sister, Paige, just as Luther, still on crutches, reached Call, with Enona. "Call," Gretchen happily said, too far away for him to hear. "I have to tell you something." Gretchen suddenly stopped at the end of the woodwalk in front of the dry goods as she witnessed an upsetting sight. As Call dismounted, Enona stepped up and kissed him. The joy in Gretchen's heart sunk immediately and was replaced with sorrow and anger. Gretchen stomped her foot loudly on the wooden sidewalk then turned and marched angrily back inside the dry goods. She slammed the door hard, rattling the windows on each side of the door. Paige quickly followed her sister back inside, trying to explain what she had just seen.

"What the hell did you do that for, Enona?" Call demanded as he pushed Enona away.

"Don't get excited, Call," Enona replied. "I just wanted to thank you for helping Luther."

"You can thank me," Mason Dobbs said as he smiled at Enona.

"I'm obliged to both of you," Luther said as Enona put her arm around the injured stage driver. "I reckon the Black Hills Stage would of been in a real fix if you boys hadn't helped out. I figure with what I kicked in, you made yourself a nice haul there, money wise, that is."

"Come inside the Ambrosia," Enona suggested. "We'd both like to buy you two a couple of drinks."

Call shook his head. "Later. I ain't seen my wife in four days." He wrapped the Hellbitch's leather rein around the hitch post and headed down the street to find Gretchen. Mason trailed behind his nephew.

**********

"Here he comes, Gretchen," Paige said as she watched her brother-in-law approach the dry goods store.

Before Call could mount the steps to the Brandt Sisters' store, Gretchen flung the door open and stood in front of her husband, staring daggers at him. "Don't you dare come near me, Newt Call!"

Call paused, confused. "Gretchen?" He stepped up to the walkway.

"Go! Leave! I'm so mad I can't look at you!"

"What are you talking . . .?"

"Leave!" she cried as she forcefully shoved him away from her. Call landed on his back in the muddy street as Gretchen stomped her foot and turned and went inside, slamming the door closed.

Call laid in the street for long moments not sure what just happened. Finally, Mason came and assisted him to his feet.

"What's ailing her? I don't know what that was all about. What did I do to set her off like that?" Call asked Mason as he picked up his hat.

"Women are a peculiar breed, Newt," Mason said. "There ain't a man, born of woman, who can decipher them. You best not start trying or it'll set your head to aching."

"I got a mind to go get drunk," Call said as he stared at the dry goods store. He was still confused.

***

"Gretchen?" Paige cried out. "It didn't look like he was expecting her to kiss him."

"I don't care!" Gretchen yelled, looking around for something to break.

Victoria approached her. "Gretchen! Don't break anything! Now, I'm serious about that!"

Paige darted past her sisters. She opened the door and ran outside. "Call! Wait!"

Call turned. He was already heading toward the No.10.

"Gretchen thought you let Enona kiss you. Don't be mad at her, Call," Paige pleaded. "She's been so emotional lately."

Call stopped. "I ain't mad at her, Paige. I didn't let Enona kiss me. She just did it. I pushed her away."

"She didn't see that," Paige replied.

Call frowned, thinking quickly. "Sonofabitch!" he mumbled. He changed direction and headed toward the Ambrosia as Paige hiked her skirt slightly and ran across the muddy street to inform Gretchen.

Mason stood in the street grinning.

"Gretchen! Gretchen!" Paige cried as she burst inside the dry goods. "Call's heading to the Ambrosia and I think he's really mad."

***

Call burst through the doors of the Ambrosia, staring wildly around the dimly lit saloon until he found Luther and Enona drinking at a table. He strode angrily to the table.

"Get up, Enona!" he ordered.

Already feeling the moonshine both her and Luther had drank over at the No.10, Enona smiled up at Call. "Sit down, Call. Have a drink."

"I said get up!" Call grabbed her arm and yanked her roughly out of her chair. "You're coming with me!"

Luther, slowed by his broken leg, stood up as well. "Hey, partner! That ain't no way . . ."

"Shut up, Luther!" Call said as he pulled the female bounty hunter toward the door.

"Call?!" Enona yelled. "Damn you!"

Call kicked open the doors and headed into the street where he turned and walked quickly toward the dry goods. His gun and holster slapping against his left thigh. His hair bouncing under his hat.

"Damn it, Call! Stop it!" Enona yelled, swinging at him and missing.

Luther hobbled behind on his cruthches. "Call! Leave her be!"

Paige was standing in the doorway of the dry goods. "Oh oh!" She leaned her head inside. "Gretchen! Come quick! Hurry!"

Gretchen and Victoria both rushed to the doorway.

Just then, Clay Mosby and the Governor's assistant, Mr. Loren Alcott, were exiting the Lonesome Dove Hotel, along with Robert Shelby and Josiah Peale.

Call dragged a reluctant Enona to the front of the dry goods and with his eyes blazing blue fire, looked first at Gretchen, then Enona. "Tell her how it was, Enona!"

Enona shook herself free from Call and fell in the mud. "What do you want, Call?!" she yelled.

"Tell her I had nothing to do with you kissing me!" he yelled back.

Luther neared the two of them as Mason stepped closer. Across the street, Clay Mosby watched in shock as Austin hurried down from the Lady Newcastle's room to join them.

Enona began laughing. It was the moonshine. "Is that what this is about?!"

Luther suddenly grabbed Call from behind and yanked him off the ground. He turned Call and threw a mighty fist into Call's mouth, sending him hurling into the mud.

Enona looked up at Gretchen, still laughing. "Mrs. Call. Your husband had nothing to do with that little kiss. I was just thanking him for helping my man."

"Call?" Gretchen whispered as she stepped off the safety of the wooden walkway. Mason grabbed Gretchen and carried her back to her sisters. He turned and charged into Luther but bounced off the huge man's chest.

Clay Mosby turned to Austin and Zeke. "Stop them! I want this ended immediately!"

Austin, Robert, Zeke, and a few other Mosby men charged into the muddy street.

Call jumped up and threw a punch at Luther just as Mason jumped on Luther's back. Mud was flying in all directions and a handful of moonshine-filled boys from tent town wandered over and suddenly ran into the street to join the free-for-all.

Someone hit Austin in the eye and Robert punched someone else in the face. It was confusing as men rolled around in the muddy street. Even three of Twyla's girls decided to go jump on men's backs as Mosby stood in horror, watching his chance to obtain the railroad slip through his fingers.

The strong moonshine had loosened Enona's tongue and she sat laughing in the mud. "Mrs. Call?" she said to Gretchen. "You've caused quite a commotion." She laid back, her face red from laughing.

"I have to go to him," Gretchen suddenly announced and was quickly stopped by Victoria and Paige, lest she end up hurt.

Clay Mosby raised his Remington and fired two shots into the air but no one hear it as men fought and rolled, mostly drunk from Swifty's superior moonshine.

Dr. Cleese, Unbob, Mattie, Amanda, and Ike were all standing a safe distance away watching what had turned into a comedy of errors right in front of the hotel.

Luther screamed loud when Mason bit him on the arm and flung the Texan away.

Clay Mosby was powerless, outside of cold blooded murder, to stop the fiasco. He was forced to watch helplessly until the more than fifteen participants finally wore themselves out and collapsed in the sea of mud and sloppy snow.

Call sat on the ground smacking his lips and poking his tongue where warm blood oozed from Luther's fist. The inside of his mouth was torn from the collision of teeth and skin. He looked around as Gretchen came running into the street to reach him.

"Call! Call! I'm sorry! I didn't know, Call! Please forgive me, Sweetheart?" she cried as she dropped into the muddy street to hug him.

Call pulled Gretchen close. He was still slightly dazed from Luther's pounding on his head but knew he had his wife back.

Enona went and helped Luther up. Mosby was surprised to see Enona laughing. It wasn't in her nature to be happy. Or at least to allow it to show.

As men slowly pulled themselves out of the muddy street, the Governor's assistant looked at Mosby. "Mr. Mosby, I wouldn't count on the railroad choosing your town as one of its primary stops." He turned and went back inside the hotel.

Call lifted Gretchen in his arms and carried her through the mud until they reached the Hellbitch. They mounted double and rode off for their home, Gretchen with her arms wrapped tightly around Call's waist.

Miz Ashley Jessup approached Clay Mosby, stepping cautiously around the mess of drunken men and mud. "Clay, dearest? I do declare! This hasn't quite turned out as one might expect, has it? Cousin Olivia hasn't shown up. And . . . this mess."

Clay turned to Ashley. Her clean beauty was a striking contrast from the mud-covered men staggering off the street. "It would appear that I have lost the future of the town as well. I suspect that this display of drunken revelry has caused Mr. Alcott to shy away from advising the Governor to secure rights for the railroad to pass through Curtis Wells."

Ashley smiled and allowed herself to take hold of Clay's hand. "Do not allow yourself to be downcast, Clay. I have an idea. At least it might permit you to blow off some of that tension I feel in your hand. Are you willing?"

*******************

Clay Mosby closed the doors to his saloon hours earlier than he normally did. By 9 o'clock the dark winter streets were quiet as Clay escorted Miz Ashley Jessup up the stairs to his private bedroom. She was slightly tipsy and needed to sit on the bed as Clay sat near her.

"I just want to lay back and close my eyes for just a moment," she said.

"Of course, my dear," Clay replied.

When she opened her eyes, Ashley realized she had passed out and was now bound and gagged, a prisoner in Mosby's bedroom. Her eyes widened with fear as she began struggling to free herself. Both hands had been bound to the brass bedpost with her drawers and petticoat. Clay stood above her, his pants open wide, fully erect as she tried to scream but her pleas were muffled from the handkerchief stuffed in her mouth.

As Clay mounted the bed, Ashley panicked and squirmed violently. Clay lifted her skirts and roughly spread her legs wide apart then drove himself deep inside her, causing her to arch her body. The more she struggled, the harder and faster Clay pounded himself inside her. As she realized he was going to pour his seed inside her she tried to twist her hips but Clay was too strong and before it was over she passed out.

Clay was still breathing hard, sweat running down his naked chest when Ashley woke up. She stared at Clay as he reached out cautiously and pulled the handkerchief out of her mouth. For long moments no words were spoken. Then, Ashley Jessup finally spoke.

"Well? Did it help, Clay? Did you like my little idea about how to vent your frustration?" She giggled.

Clay nodded. "I found it to be quite stimulating, my dear, Ashley. You have quite a talent for dealing with one's frustrations and tensions."

"Why thank you, Clay," Ashley said as she blushed.

*************************************************

The ride back to the Call house was mostly quiet. After a four day separation, the events in town were hardly what Call and Gretchen were expecting. Gretchen filled a bucket with water from the well and taking Call by the hand, led him into their small home. She wiped the dirt and mud off his face, as well as cleaning the blood off his mouth and knuckles.

Normally, she would make a fuss if he came inside with mud covering his body, but not tonight. Tonight was different.

"I'm sorry, Call. I shouldn't have gotten so mad when Enona kissed you. Paige said you pushed her away but I was so mad I never noticed. Please forgive me?"

Call took hold of Gretchen and gently pulled her to his lap. "You ought to know that I love you, Coyote Girl. I reckon I'm bound to you forever. Just the way it is. How I feel." He stared into her green eyes. "I love you, Gretchen."

"Call," she whispered, "I love you so much. I love you sooo much." She hugged him tight.

"Seems to me we both showed how much we care," Call added, then laughed some. "Them boys were a mite liquored up."

"Some man brought in a wagon load of moonshine, Call."

"Tends to be mighty strong . . . that moonshine."

"But it isn't as strong as our love, is it, Call? Our love is stronger than moonshine," Gretchen said as she stared into his eyes.

"I'd say so," Call agreed. "I'd say there ain't nothing stronger than our love."

Gretchen giggled and put her mouth on his, then as they began to kiss, she bit his lower lip and held it for a few seconds. "I have something to tell you."

"Oh?"

"You're going to be an uncle. Victoria is pregnant. She's going to have a baby," Gretchen said to her husband as he she sat comfortably in his lap.

"Ol' Ephraim did it," Call said and shook his head.

"I went to see Ephraim today with Victoria." Gretchen bit her lip as she smiled brightly at Call.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Call . . . I'm pregnant, too! We're having a baby, Call! I'm going to have your baby!" Gretchen excitedly cried out as she hugged Call.

"You ain't fooling me, are you? Now, I know you're a little coyote . . ."

"No, Call! I'm pregnant! I really, really am! We're really having a baby! Ephraim told me this morning. I'm going to have a baby!" Gretchen was full of excitement.

"When?" Call's eyes lit up and his heartbeat accelerated.

"In September," Gretchen kissed him and he kissed her back. "Are you happy, Call?"

Call stared at Gretchen for a few quiet moments as she bit her lip and stared back at him. "Yep," he nodded, "I reckon I'm real happy, Gretchen." Then he got a confused look to his face as Gretchen stared at him. "Does . . . that mean . . . we ain't gonna be able to mess around no more?"

Gretchen looked at him then giggled. "No silly. We can do anything until it's almost time for me to have our baby." She stood up and grabbed the wet towel she used for cleaning his cuts and put it over his head and laughed. "You can have me right now if you can catch me." She ran for the bedroom giggling.

"You little coyote! I'll get you," Call said as he threw the dirty towel on the floor and hurried after her.

"Is that a promise, Call?" she giggled as she jumped on their bed awaiting him.

Call stepped inside the small bedroom and leaned over toward Gretchen slowly, but she reached up and pulled him on top of her as their mouths locked together and their hands began removing clothes. It was good to be home.

+++++++++++++++++++++ The End +++++++++++++++++++

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